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Best Black Metal album of 2001!!! - 99%

Vic, August 2nd, 2002

OH FUCK YEAH!!! And we have a winner for best black metal album of 2001! I thought the contest would be between Mutiilation's "Black Millennium" or Myrddraal's "Blood on the Mountain", but then Orlok and Zagan unleashed this, the first installment of the "The Revenge of the Horned One" double-disc set. I've been a big fan of Countess since I first heard their third album, the masterful "Ad Maiorem Sathanae Gloriam" - what made that album so great was that it was black METAL - just fucking heavy, dark metal that was black and evil, and it didn't matter if it was mellow, raging, epic, thrashing, or used just electric guitars, keyboards, acoustics.... Orlok threw some of everything into the mix, added generous amounts of lyrical blasphemy and SEVERELY fucked-up vocals (makes Burzum sound like Bruce Springsteen), and it all came out blacker than a churchful of burned priests. "Revenge..." harks back to this mixture of styles more than any of the albums since then - even at 68 minutes the album is NEVER boring as it constantly moves from one angle of attack to another.

Another big plus is the addition of Zagan on guitar. Well, Zagan had been a member of the live band since about "Ad Maiorem", but aside from one bonus track and an EP this is his first appearance on a full Countess album. His great solo-work really adds a new dimension to the music when merged with Orlok's very direct songwriting style, and it's also good to hear what he can do on his own in the instrumental "Mastburbo Ergo Sum, Act I", a guitar shred-fest that's a delight to hear. His finest moment on the album, though, is the outro to the 15-minute epic album closer "Black Duncan Rides Again (The Horned One's Revenge)" - if you never thought a wah guitar solo would work in black metal, be prepared to think again. Unlike wankers like Kirk Faggett who just flail on arpeggios and sweep the wah back and forth, Zagan actually USES the wah to shape the notes and melodies, making that outro solo one of the most evocative moments of the entire album (especially coming as it does after some epic narrative lyrics and solos by Orlok on lead guitar, keyboards, and even clean guitar) - this song is truly an EPIC, and not just because it's fifteen minutes long.

Other great spots on the album are the ripping "Filth Machine", the trudging, dark "A Battle in Darkness", the triumphant "Hymn to the Gods of Yore" with its great, soaring keyboard work, the even more triumphant "Triumph of Metal", and the post-closing track, a great cover of Venom's "Countess Bathory" - you knew it would only be a matter of time before Countess got around to covering this one, and believe me, it's worth the wait. Overall, this album screams METAL more than anything I've heard in... well, since I last threw on "Ad Maiorem...". It's great to hear black metal that doesn't ignore the METAL part of the equation, and that's exactly what you get with this masterpiece - timeless classic-sounding heavy, evil metal. I can't wait for Part 2.... HAIL COUNTESS!

(Originally published at LARM (c) 2001)